Making of the Shrew, March 2012

Part One, by Andra of The Accidental Cootchie Mama

Penelope always did her shopping on Thursdays. It really was the most accessible market day. Dizzying meal selections were stocked to perfection, ingredients for the complicated recipes she always planned for Arthur. He was still too thin, she thought to herself as she removed one kid leather glove and stuffed it with its companion into the jaws of her snakeskin bag. Six months of her marital cooking had failed to line his middle with bloated satisfaction. If anything, he worked later, longer, harder, something she fought by stirring aromas, pounding textures and wrangling flavors of food. He didn’t have to work, the cushion of family money what made his emaciated frame and soft features attractive to her in the first place.

With a distracted sigh, her matching snakeskin heels clacked on the smooth floor as she pushed her cart through boxes of fresh tomatoes, their skin taut and glowing. Wasn’t there a tomato recipe she meant to try? Her mind struggling to fire through the pathways of recollection, she lingered instead to watch the young stock boys bend and stoop and sort in their crisp white uniforms. Her face grew warm as she imagined what it might feel like for one of them to take her somewhere in the anonymous back of the store, maybe splayed against a pallet of fine-spun sugar or on the box tops of raisin bran.

Her fantasies were all she had.

Reality drove Penelope’s clipped step up and down the aisles, her occupied mind oblivious to what fell into her buggy. What did it matter if she picked up a few unnecessaries? Lord knows, Arthur could afford to buy the whole store. She could, too, she reminded herself. That was the point of this unfulfilled existence, this perpetual game of unconsummated desire.

She caught the bag boy in the roadster’s rearview mirror, watching her, wondering how a mere girl like her could afford such a sweet ride. Leather and wood. A whiff of cedar scenting the exotic foreignness of the boxy car. Singular and expensive, just like her. She tapped the gas and revved the engine, toying with him. The trunk was barely shut when she gunned the motor and shot into the busy two-lanes of Main Street. Wind met hair. Her custom-tailored shopping suit gleamed golden in the sunlight. Being rich made her powerful. Tonight, she would show him how intoxicating that power could be.

At the back, she let herself into the ground floor apartment, enjoying the sheen of the top-of-the-line range and refrigerator unmarked by the clutter of shopping bags. She closed her eyes and inhaled a cleansing breath, molecules of refined air that belonged to her alone. On the exhale, she heard something. A gasp, perhaps, or a moan. Whatever it was, it spooked her enough to perform a cursory search around the kitchen, opening and closing the white metal doors of the very latest style in cabinetry, before retrieving the shopping from the car. If her apartment housed some spirit, she could pay it any amount of money to exorcise itself. If that failed, priests always jumped for money, too.

She pushed on the door that led to the dining room and checked its swing, like a batter fighting to survive a 3 – 2 count with the bases loaded and two men out. Through the slit, that’s what she saw – two men: Arthur, her husband of six months, being taken on the gleaming walnut dining table by an enraptured, thrusting man.

Part 2, by Kate Shrewsday

Well, thought Penelope. This is awkward.

It was fortunate that the two men enjoying the wide expanse of tabletop had begun to make a fair amount of noise.

Things were hotting up, mercifully, reflected Penelope, as she stooped silently to remove her Louboutins with their percussive three-inch heels. Best not to make a sound. It had always amazed her that lovemaking seemed to render the participants partially deaf. The perfect cover for….whatever she was about to do.

Life, she thought, is all about choices. Some, we have the luxury of days or weeks to make: some we have just seconds.

How to play this most unexpected of trump cards?

She could go for Distressed and Betrayed. That would require tears, at which she was an expert. She would need to utter a few key phrases in the hearing of her husband’s amorous partner, phrases which would be most helpful in court if her husband’s boundless generosity ever became compromised.

Or she could negotiate. They could come to some admirable agreement about sumptuous separate living arrangements, open marriages, numbers of cars, allowances and so forth. Everything could be just perfect.

But Penelope was pragmatic. She knew her limits, and she was well aware that though she had a hefty dose of native cunning, she was not the brightest nightlight on the shelf. Negotiation was beyond her.

Her perfectly manicured hands clasped her iPhone. In the time it takes to bat ones eyelashes, she had the camera up and running.

And she filmed.

My, he must have been tense, she mused, glancing offhandedly at her Tiffany timepiece. He was taking an age. Still, it was nice to see him so animated. With a small spark of uncharacteristic envy she realized that she had never been able to elicit anything like passion from Arthur.

It was all she could do not to tap her toe in impatience. She passed the time by appraising the partner’s behind. Not that it was anything to write home about. It was rather flabby. An academic’s behind, she would estimate: wide and flat and used to sitting in libraries and lecture theatres. And she should know. In her time, she had been a connoisseur of behinds.

There was only one behind, though, which had captured Penelope’s heart.

It owner was a very important man: a married man, of course, many of Penelope’s assignations had been thus; but also a man of the cloth. A man, in fact in the church management business.

Namely, a bishop.

There is something heartbreaking about staring stupidly at your second self, and realizing that, not only is he irrevocably unavailable, but that he has sung “Lord of the Dance” more times than you have had hot dinners.

Ask any clergyman’s wife. To The Other Woman, clergyman’s love is thrice removed: by a wife, by a position of status, and by an emotionally gluttonous church community.

Penelope had adored him, though…he surprised her, something few men were able to do. And he made her laugh.

The fracas next door was reaching its crescendo. Finally they capitulated, and the stranger let out a guffaw of triumph.

Penelope, looking at her watch, tapping her stockinged toe, froze.

She knew that laugh.

It was only now that her eyes rose to meet the mirror in the next room, to look, still unnoticed, at the eyes of the man who was so conveniently cuckolding her.

Those were the unmistakable eyes of an all-too-familiar man of the cloth.

Part 3, by Susan Sheldon Nolen

This certainly changed everything. She could scream out in horror, collapsing the two upon each other. That was far too simple. She could claim outrage and hear their lies, it’s not what it looks like, or the pathetic– we have something to tell you. However, there was nothing more to tell. There wasn’t even a flood of tears on her part to ensure guilt and compassion on theirs. She could even recite verses from the Bible condemning them both to the nether world. Anything with high dramatics was fitting and justified. Instead, Penelope waited, lightly swinging the snakeskin Louboutins.

There it was–the flicker of recognition in her husband’s eyes, the flash of horror, the fear of what was to come. He frantically started to pound his partner. Get off, get off, but before he could utter, it’s my wife– she was gone.

Silently Penelope moved from her cage to freedom. If it had been possible to purr a deep rumble as she walked, the hall would have reverberated. The door opened and still barefoot, she stood on the steps to her apartment, the wind curling around the corner, cold with the breath of rain.

Studying the shine reflecting off the snakeskin Louboutins, she traced the long slender heel with the sharp point encased in a small rubber tap, protecting the steel of the heel from penetrating wood floors and skulls. How easy it would be to bring the heel down on the back of his skull. A sudden downward movement and the heel would first crash through his perfectly groomed hair into the soft skin protecting his skull, and then piercing that armour, sink deep into the grey matter of his brain.

Or, if she preferred, she could place the shoes back on her perfectly manicured feet and press down upon his throat, feeling his pulse race up the shank of the heel, past the layer of snakeskin into the flesh of her foot, only then would she press down, penetrating his lying larynx.

But, the soles of these shoes were red already and blood splatters on top of the snakeskin would be too much to bear.

She bent down and placed the one shoe with the heel facing upwards towards the sky.

“You are safe, my darlings,” she whispered.

She toyed with the other shoe, feeling the snakeskin underneath the tips of her fingers, tracing the slight creases in the leather, down to the incredibly pointed tip. How sharp it was against her skin. A carefully placed kick would bring them both down instantly, praying to their gods to release their searing pain.

Release…they had indeed released her. The wind caressed her cheek, again reminding her, she must move now; she was out of her cage. She left the other shoe with its toe pointing down the steps.

Sliding into the supple leather seat of her sports car, Penelope turned the key. The rumbling engine’s heat flooded over her toes, up along the slender curve of her calves. It climbed her strong thighs, across her lap, caressing her taunt belly; up it went seeking her breasts, where the heat finally rested in the all too perfect hollow of her neck.

Penelope took out her lipstick and carefully creamed her lips. She pursed them, blowing her reflection a simple perfect kiss.

In the mirror’s reflection– a disturbance. Her husband and his paramour flew down the steps towards her car. Snapping the compact closed, Penelope gunned the engine. Revenge would be hers.

Part Four, by Tom of Me! Me! Me me me!

It had been a month since she raced away. Well, four weeks and three days, but Penelope hadn’t been counting. She’d been busy.

A day after leaving her husband, she met Pablo, a largish owner of a largish media empire. He was married, but she chose to ignore that fact – and besides, his wife worked overseas and wouldn’t be back for months. She referred to Pablo as her little mafia boss, as she preferred the way this sounded over his correct media boss title.

Her plan was coming together.

She bought the final item on her list on her latest Thursday shopping trip. Penelope registered it in Arthur’s name, for insurance purposes. Arthur had actually paid for it; he hadn’t stopped his credit card.

She’d told Pablo of her plan. She didn’t want another relationship souring due to secrets and lies, although she had told him one little tiny white lie. Pablo told her to forget about it. To leave things be and move on. Penelope had made up her mind.

As Pablo showered she quickly dressed, and left.

She threw her short white jacket over her large weapon on the passenger seat, which did nothing to conceal it. She sped to the church, tyres screeching as she set off. She was on a mission, and she didn’t want to be late.

She arrived at the church at 10.30am. The doors were closed; she knew that the service was well underway. She quickly put the jacket over her shoulders, grabbed what she needed from the car, and sprinted up the steps. She’d practiced this so many times in the past few weeks she was no longer out of breath.

At the top of the steps, she turned the latch on one of the two wooden doors, and, as she expected, both of them opened. She pushed them forward with such force that they slammed into the stone walls inside the vestibule. The resulting bang echoed around the church, causing the packed congregation to turn to face her, somewhat shocked.

The bishop was stood at the front of the church, beside a large screen that was showing a DVD of calming scenes, his face slightly more shocked than his now settling audience. Penelope smiled as she saw his expression. She followed his glance to another face in the crowd. Another shocked face looked at her: Arthur, her husband. Now or never, she thought.

She handed a small stack of photocopied images to the lady who was sat by the door – Miss Sprightly, the impressionable school head. “Take one and pass them on…” Penelope said. Miss Sprightly almost fainted when she saw the image. Penelope quickly pressed the play button on the new ghetto blaster, and the shocked look on the congregation changed to confusion, then through realisation back to shock again as they realised what they were hearing. The groans… The moans… The voices… The names…

Through the mumbling of the gathered churchgoers, Penelope could hear two sets of running footsteps. One set from inside the church, as Arthur was making his dash to freedom; the other from outside. Breathless, Pablo’s hulking figure arrived at the doorway, blocking Arthur’s exit.

“Tiffany. No!” He said, in a whisper. Penelope held out her right index finger to stop Pablo. She loved the way the blood red nail varnish matched the colour of her dress, but she had other matters at hand. She tapped Arthur in the centre of his chest. “You can’t leave yet,” she smirked. She held aloft a disc from her handbag and continued, “We’ve all got a movie to watch…”